“God becomes man. Man does not become God. The human order remains and continues to be our duty, but it is consecrated. And man has become something more, something mightier. Let us trust life because this night must lead to light. Let us trust life because we do not have to live it alone…God lives it with us.” —Father Alfred Delp, German Jesuit priest executed by hanging in 1945 during the final days of World War II, accused of participating in an assassination attempt on Hitler.
PRAYER: (from the Lectionary)
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)
Wake up! Wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light (Romans 13:11b-12).
PRAYER FOCUS: Advent and the Armor of Light.
We don’t like alarm clocks. Not even a little bit. The alarm’s ringing confronts us with the choice of continuing our slumber, remaining asleep in the warm land of our dreams, or arising to embrace the cold reality of the new day. In the New Testament kairos (Gr: καιρός) means “the appointed time in the purpose of God”, the time when God acts. It differs from the more usual Greek word for time, which is kronos (Gr: κρόνος).
Next Sunday is the start of Advent. The holiday season is nearly upon us. Bright shiny holiday decorations are popping up everywhere. Party plans and travel arrangements are being made. Most of us will be spending more time in the markets and stores.
Unfortunately, those of us in the West will spend time arguing and worrying whether Nativity scenes should be allowed in public, whether Christmas is too commercialized, or what is the proper term for the brightly-lit trees standing over the pile of presents. Should we greet each other with, “Merry Christmas”, “Season’s Greetings”, or “Happy Holidays”?
We find ourselves increasingly drawn into a culture war defined by the tension between our Christian traditions and the noisy—and often silly—objections of secular-Progressives. Somewhere in all the discordant noise the true significance of Advent seems to get crowded out.
Advent is a time of preparation, a time of awakening.
Our quote today comes from Alfred Delp, a German Jesuit priest who spoke out against the Nazis in the 1940s,and who was implicated in an assassination plot against Hitler in 1944. As Father Delp sat in prison in awaiting his execution, he wrote this about Advent:
Here is the message of Advent: faced with Him who is the First and Last, the world will begin to shake. Only when we do not cling to false securities will our eyes be able to see this Last One…only then will we be able to guard our lives from the frights and terrors which God has let the world sink to teach us. It is time to say, “It was night, but let that be over now and let us be ready for the day.” The world today needs people who have been shaken by ultimate calamities and emerged from them with the knowledge and awareness that those who look to the Lord will still be preserved by Him, even if they are hounded from the earth.
The Advent message comes out of man’s encounter with the absolute, the final, the gospel. It is thus the message that shakes—so that in the end the world shall be shaken. The fact that then the Son of God shall come is more than a prophecy; it is also a decree, that God’s coming and the shaking up of humanity are connected. The great question to us is whether we are still capable of being truly shocked or whether it is to remain so that we see thousands of things and know they should not be and must not be, and that we get hardened to them. How many things have we become used to in the course of the years, of the weeks and the months, so that we stand unshocked, unstirred, inwardly unmoved?
Perhaps we forget in our modern era that the original culture war began a long time ago. One-third of the angels in heaven were cast out and condemned for their rebellion against Almighty God. Adam and Eve, and through them all of humanity, were drawn into the cosmic clash when they entertained the Serpent’s deceitful question, “Did God really say that…?”
The birth of the Christ child wasn’t God’s singular response to right the wrongs of worldly sin—it was the beginning of a journey that took His only begotten and beloved Son to an excruciating and humiliating execution. God’s answer to the culture war came not in Bethlehem but on Calvary; not in a manger but on the Cross.
We also forget that the same prophecies foretelling the birth of the Christ child in Bethlehem also tell us that there will be a Second Coming of Jesus the Christ. And it will not look anything like the humble manger arrangement cast in the controversial Nativity scenes. According to the prophets (Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel), according to angels (Acts 1:9-11), and according to our Lord Himself (Matt. 24:27-31), in the next Advent He will come in power and glory and light and majesty, with a roar of thunder that will shake the foundations of the heavens and the earth.
Wake up, Christian! The night is nearly over. The day is almost here.
It’s Monday morning. Arise and embrace this day. Are there works of darkness the Lord wants you to cast aside? Are you ready to wear your armor of light in the public square? Let us begin this season by praying, from the Lectionary, “Almighty God, give us grace…”